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Posted on Jul 30, 2010

Water Softeners: Softer, but not Safer

In many homes you can find a water softener in the basement or utility room. Many people believe that just because they run their drinking water through the softener that it is clean and ready to drink. This is flat out wrong. Water softeners do not filter your water at all. They simple remove a few minerals that make the water taste unpleasant. They are a useful tool in the process of creating mineral free water, but they are not the standalone solution many people believe.
A water softener performs one role in the water cleaning system. It removes the majority of the calcium and magnesium from your water. This prevents the infamous “bathtub ring” from appearing in your shower, giving the impression of cleaner water. In reality, this ring is formed when the ions in the soap react with the magnesium and calcium in the bath water. There is no noticeable health benefit gained from drinking softened water.

The way a water softener works is quite simple. It runs the water through a material which contains a large number of negatively charged resins. Because in the chemical world opposite charges attract, the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions stick to this resin. These ions are then replaced with sodium ions. This is why you must constantly refill the salt container in your water softener. As the water runs through it, more and more of the salt is dissolved into the water until eventually it runs out.

Unfiltered, softened water can actually be harmful to certain people. For those who need a low- sodium diet, the increase in sodium due to their water can be surprisingly large. If you are softening extremely hard water, then the increased sodium intake can be up to 500 mg per day. This can throw off their dietary needs significantly.

Softening your hard well water can be a great way to get better-tasting water. However, you must be sure that you do not believe that the water softener is filtering the water to the point where you know it is safe to drink. A high-quality water filter such as those from Aquasana will remove more than just the excess calcium and magnesium from your drinking water, while retaining the correct amounts your body needs naturally. It will also remove the chemicals that can harm your body. Most of all, it does this without adding salt to your drinking water. Using a high-quality water filter is the best way to ensure that your drinking water is clean and healthy.